Why Wordless Picture Books are Important

Why Wordless Picture Books are Important
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Why Wordless Picture Books are Important

Wordless picture books are often quickly dismissed as being too easy. But they are a powerful tool in developing literacy skills. Understanding a wordless story involves interpreting the illustrations as there is no text to rely on. This promotes comprehension, vocabulary, and listening skills and an understanding of story structure and character development.
What follows are the different benefits to reading wordless books.

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A well-rounded reader needs good comprehension skills. This includes remembering what has already happened and predicting what may happen next. This is difficult for most children with a regular picture book. Wordless books are great for encouraging a child’s ability to infer what is happening in the story. As there are no or few words the reader has to figure this out for themselves using the illustrations. This not only develops comprehension but an overall understanding of story structure and plot.
Children need to practice retelling stories in interesting and exciting ways. Model storytelling techniques, including making connections, predicting, and questioning the author’s choices. With consistent practice, their responses will become more natural and detailed. Give your child time to look through or discuss the book before they retell. If you rush the process, they will miss important visual clues and could misunderstand the story.

Confidence and Independence

Building confidence is important to develop a child’s love of reading. Wordless picture books are wonderful for strengthening independence, particularly for young readers. A child feels confidence and pride in reading a book by themselves. Learning to read is hard and it is important to have positive reading experiences. Wordless books give children a break from decoding and the opportunity to focus on the story itself. Encouraging children to pick up another book often depends on their last reading experience.

Verbal Skills and Discussion

Wordless books invite children to become an active participant in the story. Following up on a child’s questions helps make connections and increases understanding. As there are no words the flow of the story is not interrupted as it would when reading text. 
Model how to describe the plot, setting and characters. You can discuss cause and effect, conflict and resolution, add dialogue and elaborate on what is happening. Encourage imagination by thinking of new ways to retell the story. Asking questions teaches children that clues to the story are not only in text but also the illustrations. Here are a few questions to get started.
  • What is happening?
  • Tell me about the characters. What are their emotions?
  • What is the character thinking? How do you know?
  • What is the character’s goal/mission? How will they achieve their goal?
  • Why did the character make this choice? Could they have made a better choice?
  • What is the character going to do next? How will their actions effect the story?
  • What do you think the character is saying? Why?
  • What is the setting of the story? What do you notice about the setting?
  • What will happen next? How do you know?

New Vocabulary

Storytelling increases vocabulary and verbal skills. When discussing the story introduce new and more complex vocabulary. Describe illustrations, plots and characters actions and emotions in detail. As you introduce new words, children will incorporate them into their own language as they understand the context within which to use it.

Visual Appreciation

Wordless books are a great way to establish an understanding of how blending words with art tells a story. Looking for clues within illustrations helps the reader interpret a book’s plot. Transferring this skill to books with text helps children read unknown words independently. Take time to pour over the illustrations, removing the pressure some children may feel when reading.

Story Structure and Sequencing

Wordless picture books lend themselves to developing storytelling skills. Examine the story structure together. Focus on the beginning, middle and end and the sequence of events. Retelling improves as children understand that actions happen in a particular order affecting the outcome of the plot.

Writing Skills

As a teacher, I used wordless picture books to inspire creative writing. Children can retell the story, add character dialogue and write an epilogue or a prelude. Using books as inspiration will help those children who struggle to develop creative ideas.

Why Wordless Picture Books are Important
Why Wordless Picture Books are Important​

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